New York-style Jewish-Muslim cooperation comes to old Vienna

(A light installation commemorating Holocaust victims is seen on a wall in the second district of Vienna October 23, 2013. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger )

New York Rabbi Marc Schneier won a small but significant victory on a recent visit to Vienna – a promise from the head of Austria’s Islamic community to promote Holocaust education among the country’s half a million Muslims.

Invited to an interfaith lunch along with his years-long partner in Jewish-Muslim outreach, Imam Shamsi Ali, Schneier found himself having a “very, very frank exchange” of views with Muslim leader Fuat Sanac, whom the Austrian Jewish community was hosting for the first time.

(Rabbi Marc Schneier (L) and Austrian Muslim leader Fuat Sanac, 7 Nov 2013 in Vienna/Georgina Prodhan)

Dismayed at the apparently low level of awareness among Muslim children about the Holocaust, Schneier asked Sanac whether he would be willing to address this by allowing Jews to carry out an education programme in the Muslim community, and, to his surprise, Sanac agreed.

Israeli couples say ‘I don’t’ to Orthodox Jewish weddings

(Bride Veronica (4th L) reads a message to her groom Michael (4th R), as they stand underneath a traditional Jewish wedding canopy during their secular wedding ceremony in Tel Aviv November 14, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias )

For most Israelis in the Jewish state, there is one legal way to get married – God’s way.

Israeli law empowers only Orthodox rabbis to officiate at Jewish weddings, but popular opposition is growing to this restriction and to what some Israelis see as an Orthodox stranglehold on the most precious moments of their lives.

Church of England synod paves the way for women bishops in 2014

(Members of the Church of England’s General Synod listen to speeches in Church House in central London November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning )

The Church of England’s governing body voted overwhelmingly in favour of female bishops on Wednesday, ending a 20-year impasse that could see women ordained as senior clergy by the end of 2014.

A vote on a package of measures to endorse women bishops was supported by 378 members of the General Synod while eight voted against and 25 abstained after months of behind-the-scenes talks to unite reformers and traditionalists.

Restored Rome catacomb frescoes add to Catholic debate on women priests

(A fresco inside the catacomb of Priscilla’a “Cubiculum of the Veiled Woman” room showing a woman with outstretched arms like those of a priest saying Mass. In Rome November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi)

Proponents of a female priesthood say frescoes in the newly restored Catacombs of Priscilla prove there were women priests in early Christianity. The Vatican says such assertions are sensationalist “fairy tales”.

The catacombs, on Rome’s Via Salaria, have been fully reopened after a five-year project that included laser technology to clean some of the ancient frescoes and a new museum to house restored marble fragments of sarcophagi. Art lovers and the curious around the world who cannot get to Rome can join the debate by using a virtual visit to the underground labyrinth by Google Maps, a first-time venture mixing antiquity and modern high technology.

Guestview: NYC circumcision rite consent rule tests limits of religious freedom

(Rabbi Moshe Wiseberg (R), a “mohel”, or ritual circumciser hands a baby to his grandfather after circumcising him in Jerusalem September 24, 2012. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Eliyahu Federman is a Miami-based executive with theological and legal training who has written on religion, culture and law at the Huffington Post, The Forward, USA Today and elsewhere. 

by Eliyahu Federman  

Parents can refuse to vaccinate their children on the basis of religious beliefs or other values, even if studies show they are exposing children to increased health risks. But the state should be allowed to require that parents acknowledge the risks associated with not vaccinating.

German “luxury bishop” settles with court over 1st class flight-to-poverty case

(Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst makes his inaugural address during a service of worship in Limburg Cathedral January 20, 2008. REUTERS/Wolfgang Radtke/KNA-Bild)

A German court has dropped for the time being an investigation into a Roman Catholic prelate known as the “luxury bishop” over accusations he lied under oath about taking a first-class flight to visit poverty projects in India.

State prosecutors had sought to have Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg fined for making false affidavits about the flight, but the court accepted a 20,000-euro settlement.

Tunisia Islamists seek jihad in Syria with one eye on home

(Hayet Saadi, mother of Aymen Saadi, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis November 13, 2013. REUTERS/Anis Mili )

Aymen Saadi’s brief call to jihad began with dreams of fighting for an Islamic state in Syria and ended with a botched suicide bombing attempt in a crowd of foreign tourists in Tunisia.

Guards tackled the Tunisian teenager before he detonated his bomb at a presidential mausoleum last month south of Tunis. Minutes earlier, a fellow bomber had blown himself up into a bloody mess across the sand at a popular beach resort a few kilometres away.

Turkey’s Kemalists see his secularist legacy under threat

(People gather at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of Turkey and founder of the modern secular state, to commemorate his 75th death anniversary at Anitkabir in Ankara November 10, 2013. The slogan on an Ataturk poster (R) reads as: “Take an oath today”. TURKEY-KEMALISTS/ REUTERS/Stringer)

For decades his picture dominated Turkey, piercing blue eyes staring from hoardings, keeping watch over city streets and army barracks. Schoolyards echoed every morning to his oath:  “Happy is he who can say ‘I am a Turk!’”

Now that oath rings out no more and the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the secular republic, seems for some to be retreating into the shadows, victim of a new ruling class they suspect of cherishing a new more ‘Islamic’ Turkey.

Praying in ruined churches, Filipinos face up to massive rebuilding

(Devotees receive Holy Communion during Sunday Mass at Santo Nino Church after Super typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city in central Philippines November 17, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su)

Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan flocked to ruined churches on Sunday, kneeling in prayer under torn roofs as the Philippines faced an enormous rebuilding task from the storm that killed at least 3,681 people and displaced 4 million.

At Santo Niño Church, near the waterfront in the flattened city of Tacloban, birds flitted between the rafters overhead as women moved through the pews with collection plates. At the end of mass, the Roman Catholic congregation broke into applause.

Syrian Sunni Islamists think ally is Shi’ite, behead him by mistake

(An Islamist flag on the ground near the main highway leading Aleppo to Raqqa November 11, 2013. REUTERS/George Ourfalian)

A group of Syrian Sunni Muslim rebels linked to al Qaeda have beheaded one of their own wounded fighters after mistaking him for a foreign Shi’ite fighting for President Bashar al-Assad, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

A video posted by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights shows two members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) brandishing a severed head before a crowd in Aleppo and saying he was an Iraqi Shi’ite fighting for Assad.